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The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Russia Update: December 6, 2016

Publication: Russia Update
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The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Human Rights Lawyers Discover 5 Cases of Russian Women Imprisoned for State Treason Related to Georgia
Lawyers at Team 29, a group of lawyers and journalists defending freedom of information in Russia, have discovered five cases of Russian women imprisoned on charges of treason for text messages they sent related to the Russian military and Georgia, Kommersant reported.

They were all tried under Art. 275 of the Russian Criminal Code (state treason) in Krasnodar Territory in the south.

Yekaterina Kharebava, a merchant at a marketplace, was sentenced in 2015 to 6 years of imprisonment for sending a text message in 2008 to Georgia about the movement of military vehicles she saw passing through Sochi. She was released in the summer of 2016 as part of a prisoner exchange between Russia and Georgia.

Kharebava recounted that once she arrived in the labor colony, she came across Inga Tutsiani, who had also sent a text message to a friend in Georgia and was sentenced in June 2014. Kharebava reported that she had also  found Marina Dzhandzhgava, sentenced to 12 years for state treason. Mana Kapanadze, a fourth woman, was sentenced in July 2014, also for state treason, Ivan Pavlov, a lawyer with Team 29 reported.

Lawyers are now working on an appeal to the Supreme Court on behalf of Oksana Sevastidi, sentenced to 7 years under Art. 275 for sending a text messages to her friend in Georgia.

Kommersant reported on Sevastidi's case earlier this month. A resident of Sochi, she was recently sentenced for a text messages she sent back in 2008, when Russia invaded Georgia.

Although the time period to make an appeal has elapsed, lawyers are hoping to make progress on her case, because her original lawyer did not make an appeal. Memorial Human Rights Center has declared Sevastidi a political prisoner.

Sevastidi,46, is a Russian citizen who was born in Yekaterinburg. When she was 5, her parents moved to Abkhazia and she graduated from school there. Abkhazia declared its independence in 1990 and war broke out with Georgia in 1992. After the war ended in 1995, Sevastidi and her mother returned to Sochi and worked as traders. In August 2008, Oksana saw a train carrying military vehicles heading toward Abkhazia and sent a message about it on her cell phone to a girlfriend. At that time Russia moved troops into South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

But she was not arrested until January 2015, then ultimately plead guilty in March 2016 and was sentenced to 7 years of imprisonment. She is currently serving her sentence in a labor colony in Ivanovo Region.

In the case files, there is a claim from Abkhazian intelligence that the person who received Oksana's SMS text was a Georgian intelligence officer. Pavlov wondered if this was truly the case -- "For state intelligence in Bakhazia, likely every citizen of Georgia is an employee of Georgian intelligence," he commented.

Given that Oksana did not have access to classified information, and saw a train moving that was openly visible to anyone to see, Pavlov believes she should not be charged with leaking state secrets. He also pointed out that her text message did not have any details about the origin of the train, the types of military armaments or what unit they belonged to.

Memorial believes the case against Sevastidi was fabricated, and that the punishment is far too harsh for the alleged offense. The human rights group had also declared Kharebava, whose case is similar, as a political prisoner. In Kharebava's case as well, the judge said she transmitted information to "a military representative of Georgia".

The Georgia-related cases came at a time when Russia was zealously pursuing cases believed to involve treason. Svetlana Davydova, a mother of seven, was arrested by the FSB in January 2015 for calling the Ukrainian Embassy in Moscow to tell them that a military barracks near her home was emptied out and she feared they had been sent to Ukraine, as one of the soldiers said they were being sent "on a trip." After a huge outcry by the independent media and human rights groups, Davydova was released and the charges dropped.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick


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